Lady Warsi warns equalities minister against gay marriage proposals
Reposted from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/dec/13/lady-warsi-gay-marriage-proposals
Communities secretary Eric Pickles has also voiced concerns about the impact on churches of allowing same-sex marriages
In a letter to the equalities minister Maria Miller, Warsi raised concerns about the impact on churches and on teachers in faith schools if same-sex marriage were allowed to be held in churches.
"Concerns have been raised about the unintended consequences that may arise from any proposed legislation," Warsi wrote in the letter which was leaked to the Daily Mail. Warsi, who doubles up as a senior Foreign Office minister and as minister for faith communities, initially signed off the letter with the communities secretary Eric Pickles on Monday night.
The letter was amended on Tuesday after the equalities minister briefed the cabinet that the Church of England and the Church in Wales would be exempted from the new law. Pickles voiced concerns in the autumn about the impact on the churches. The timing of the letter shows that Miller's briefing to the cabinet – and later to MPs – failed to allay all of Warsi's concerns because the exemptions only applied to the established Church of England and the Church in Wales.
Warsi wrote that she had received a "large volume of calls in relation this matter" from groups with a series of concerns. She wrote: "How will we ensure that the legislation will protect religious freedom? What legal protection will churches and other places of worship be afforded from challenges if they refuse to undertake same-sex marriage? What legal support will be afforded to churches and others places of worship if they're challenged individually or as an organisation?"
Her intervention shows that a number of ministers are still pressing for clarification. It is understood that environment secretary Owen Paterson and Wales secretary David Jones may vote against the measure when it comes before MPs next year. This will not count as a rebellion because Downing Street is offering MPs a free vote. Pickles has raised concerns about the position of churches while Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, has suggested the government should be dealing with more pressing matters.